State-local partnership panel formed to address shortfall in state aid to towns, cities

By Kevin Zimmerman

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The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) has formed a new state-local partnership panel to develop a comprehensive package of legislative initiatives for the 2017 General Assembly designed to break new ground on municipal fiscal operations and regional service delivery among Connecticut’s 169 towns and cities.

The move is meant in part to address the expected shortfall in state aid to the state’s towns and cities in the face of budget cuts. The state’s towns and cities originally were told sales tax revenue sharing would amount to $246 million this fiscal year, about $300 million in 2017-18, and about $350 million by 2018-19 and each year thereafter.

But as part of the state’s efforts to deliver its budget in May, the promised revenue-sharing for this fiscal year was reduced from $246 million to $185 million. Municipal grants were also cut by roughly $100 million.

“We are seeking to develop a legislative action plan that can be implemented by the 2017 General Assembly and designed to change the course of events in Connecticut towns and cities starting in July 2017 in terms of municipal funding and local service efficiencies,” said CCM President and Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton.

The four-month mission of the new task force – explored through two subcommittees – will focus on property tax and local revenue diversification, as well as regional service delivery. Objectives include developing proposed statewide policies that govern the delivery and financing of municipal services, including maximizing inter-municipal cooperation opportunities.

“As one can see from the breadth and range of issues to be tackled, this panel has ambitious goals that must be met in less than 120 days,” said CCM Executive Director Joe DeLong. “We are not looking for another study that will be filed on an office shelf.”

The panel will present its findings in a comprehensive report that will be released in December in advance of the 2017 General Assembly Session, slated to begin on January 4, 2017.

In addition to Boughton, panel members include Stamford Mayor David Martin; Wethersfield Town Manager Jeff Bridges; Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin; Coventry Town Manager John Elsesser; North Haven First Selectman Michael Freda; New Haven Mayor Toni Harp; Mansfield Town Manager Matt Hart; Norwich Mayor Deb Hinchey; East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc; Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary; Litchfield First Selectman Leo Paul; and New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart.

The panel’s work will be guided by Lawrence Walters, emeritus professor of public management and policy at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. Walters was retained by the 2015 Connecticut General Assembly as the principal investigator for a study on business personal property and registered motor vehicle taxes in Connecticut. The CCM panel will also be “drawing heavily on resources from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, leading economists and other experts on these issues across the country,” it said.

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